Lime and tequila: Food that tastes like vacation

Mexico vida soleMexico has long been a favourite haunt for us. Sunshine, beautiful beaches, friendly people and most of all – incredible food.

From our first trip, 15 years ago, we were quick to branch out beyond standard resort offerings (not that there’s anything wrong with poolside nachos and margaritas) to visit local restaurants, producers and roadside stands.

Mexican kitchens are unlike any other I’ve ever seen, managing high-intensity, hands-on food preparation with a laid-back, low-key attitude. There’s no pretense to this food – it’s all about in-your-face flavour and kitchen skill that comes from years of training and tradition.

Mexican fiesta foodSo, after this year’s trip to the southern Baja – where we skipped the resort experience altogether and stayed with friends in a beachside condo – it was only natural to share some of that experience with friends back home.

Three of our favourite Mexican dishes? Jalapeno margaritas, tequila-and-lime fish tacos, and beef-and-bean empanadas. Recipes below.

Jalapeno Margaritas

We introduced this delight to an aging bartender in Bueno Vista, who told us he used to serve John Wayne.

For each serving:

  • 1 oz. good tequila (don’t waste your time with the cheap stuff)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 slices jalapeno
  • 1 tsp. agave syrup
  • 4-6 ice cubes

Serve on the rocks, or put it through a blender for a slushy version. You’re welcome.

Fish Tacos

Serves 2 people. Adjust as necessary – you do the math.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh fish (ideally mahi mahi, grouper or halibut. We used ocean perch because it was available at home)
  • ¾ cup marinade (recipe below)
  • 6-8 fresh corn or flour tortillas
  • Mango salsa (recipe here)
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
  • Other toppings as desired

Marinade:

  • Combine
    • Zest and juice of 1 lime
    • ¼ cup tequila
    • ¼ cup cilantro, washed and finely chopped
    • 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
    • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
    • Ground salt and pepper
    • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
    • ¼ cup sunflower oil (olive oil works, too)

Directions:

  • Pour marinade over fish and refrigerate for two hours.
  • Heat large non-stick grill or frying pan until sizzling. Grill fish on each side until cooked through, but not overdone. (About 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.)
  • Meanwhile, prepare tortilla shells according to directions.
  • Serve grilled fish with warm tortillas, salsa and chopped cilantro. Add chopped avocado, guacamole, refried beans, etc. as desired.

Beef and Bean Empanadas

mexico empanadasChocolate is as much a spice as a dessert in Mexican cuisine. A bit of cocoa in the rub takes the flavour to another level.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs slow-cooked beef brisket with mole rub, shredded or finely diced
  • ½ cup refried beans
  • ½ cup mango salsa (recipe here)
  • Empanada dough (recipe below)

Beef brisket with mole rub

  • Combine to make a thick paste:

    • 2 tbsp. chopped garlic
    • 1 tsp. coarse salt
    • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
    • ¼ cup fresh, chopped cilantro
    • 1 tsp. dried chili pepper (more if desired)
    • 1 tsp. lime zest
    • ¼ tsp. cumin
    • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
    • ¼ cup sunflower or olive oil
  • Rub paste into brisket and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours
  • Heat oven to 275
  • Place roast in an oven-safe dish (ideally a cast-iron enamel Dutch oven)
  • Top with approx. 2 cups diced or stewed tomatoes
  • Cook low for two hours. Remove from oven and let rest at least 20 minutes.
  • Once beef is cool enough to handle, shred or dice into small (1/2”) pieces

Empanadas

  • For filling, combine:
    • 2 cups chopped beef
    • ½ cup refried beans
    • ½ cup mango salsa
    • 1 tbsp. tomato paste, if desired.
  • For the dough, combine:
    • 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 2 tbsp. baking powder
    • 1 ½ tbsp. white sugar
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 1 cup lard
  • Cut lard into other ingredients, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • In a separate bowl, mix 2 eggs, then add 1 ½ cups warm chicken stock. Mix well and add to flour mixture.
  • Using your hands or the dough blade on your stand mixer, knead for approximately 1 minute to form a dough ball. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Roll dough out on a floured surface, about ¼ inch thick.
  • Cut into circles (size depends on the size of the empanadas you want – use a large mug for appetizers, a salad plate for meal-sized pastries)
  • Place filling in centre of each dough circle, fold in half and seal the edges with a fork
  • Heat about 1-inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Cook empanadas until golden brown on each side, turning once
  • Place cooked empanadas on a cookie sheet and keep warm in an oven set to low temperature (250F).
  • Serve with salsa, sour cream or your favourite toppings.

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